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The Oresteia: Agamemnon; The Libation Bearers; The Eumenides Reprint Edition
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Some additional random musings:
1. This is one of the many books I was "forced" to read in graded courses at the University, but only really first discovered when I was long graduated and freed from all compulsory studies. In the meantime I have also had the time and passion to study -- very slowly and with great delight -- the originals.
2. As with other "great" works of literature, my advice is to ignore what the "experts" have to say about the work and go straight to the work itself. Thus, skip the intimidating intro and dive right into the text, doubling back later only if the muse strikes you.
3. After reading and then rereading Fagles' new translation of the Agamemnon, Libation Bearers and Eumenides I am struck by the similarities of the Oresteia in both tone, theme and mien to the greatest Shakespearean tragedies, especially Hamlet. My dogeared copy of this Aeschylus is now bristling with notes and crossreferences to the Bard.
The second play is the vehicle for Clytaemnestra's punishment, as her son Orestes returns to kill both her and Aegisthus with the help of his sister Electra.
Finally, the Eumenides has the trial of Orestes by Athena, as she stops the furies from taking him in return for the blood-guilt he incurred for killing his mother. The Eumenides provides the way to end the cycle of revenge by banishing the furies from active participation in the world of men.
The cycle can be read in any number of ways. The introduction to the Penguin/Fagles translation contains a summary of the various readings. I kept wondering what Proteus, the missing fourth satyr-play would have provided. We read it so clearly as a trilogy and the Eumenides has such a harmonious ending that I can't help but wonder if the circle closed in the third play reopens in the fourth or if it was something else entirely.
My only complaint about the book is that in the Fagles translation the notes are at the back of the book rather than assigned per page, and I find that a cumbersome style to read.
Do not read this simply for your intellectual, moral, and spiritual improvement -- experience this because it is so enjoyable. "Pulp Fiction," "The Terminator," "The Titanic," Stephen King, or the latest Martin Scorcese film cannot compare for plot, intrigue, sex, violence, gore, intensity, entertainment, or cutting edge creativity.
From the plays' depiction of horrendous and unspeakable crimes to its climactic courtroom drama, you'll see why so many ancient playgoers fainted in the audience -- some women even having spontaneous miscarriages -- and why modern readers are so shocked and on the edge of their armchairs. Even if you've never read a "classic" or a "great book," read this.
Translation is necessary; nobody can know all the classical languages of the world, and few people who want to familiarize themselves with the great works of literature outside their own language have the time to master even a few of the languages required. And sound translation is a blessing. But it is very rare that one gets a translation that is itself a masterpiece of literature, that embeds itself into the language as a classic. I think we can all think of a few: Schelling's German versions of Shakespeare, which have been acted and reprinted for more than two centuries, Monti's Italian Iliad, the English Authorized Version of the Bible, Pope's and Chapman's Iliad - both beautiful, both unfaithful - and Fitzgerald's Rubayyat.
Now as far as I am concerned this translation is that of that rare quality: something that will be read with pleasure and admiration as English verse, two hundred years from now. Those who whine about its being imprecise ought to remember that Italy's premier Iliad translator, Monti, knew no Greek and worked from Latin and earlier Italian versions; yet, being a great poet, he produced an account that has established itself at the heights of the Italian literary heritage. I first read Fagles' Oresteia at 18, in a Penguin paperback dotted with admiring reviews from everyone from Mary Renault to Bernard Levin; and I was so blown away that for a couple of days I could do nothing but bend the ear of all my friends and repeat - "And I thought Shakespeare was something!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
books for school. not sure if i am enjoying it.
great copy of the book by seller.
I have always imagined Agamemnon as an evil and egoistic character, but, after re-reading the book, I think I might actually be wrong.Published 8 months ago by Amy Daniel
I have spent a lot of time in my life reading Homer. I've never spent any reading the Greek poets and decided to remedy that. Read morePublished 8 months ago by David H. Eisenberg
Refreshing book. Nice to read plays of tragedy and drama. I had to purchase the book for a literature class in college. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Gabby
In short, this is more of an interpretation than a review of the of the play. My interpretation of the play is that it tells the story of how the rule of law was born, of how rage... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Joseph Annunzio
Very well put together book, and extremely interesting. The trilogy is centuries old but still manages to represent life today.Published 13 months ago by Angela J. Davidson